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Storing fresh fruit and vegetables

Two is better than one when it comes to the humble crisper.

hands in crisper taking out leek
Last updated: 23 April 2020

The crispers in your fridge are designed to store fruit and vegetables – the closed drawers keep in some humidity, which keeps some items fresh for longer. 

But fruit and vegies don't all ripen at the same rate. Some require more humidity than others, and some are more sensitive to the cold; some don't require refrigeration at all, and some only in the later stages of ripening. It's no wonder there's confusion about how to best store fruit and vegies in the crisper!

How does your crisper work?

The crisper in your fridge is designed to provide the best possible conditions for storing fresh fruit and veg. Ideally your crisper will have a means of regulating humidity, as many fruits and vegetables will dry out and deteriorate rapidly in the dry air of your fridge proper.

Unfortunately, we've found that many crispers, or at least those without humidity control, have about the same the humidity levels as in the main part of the fridge, which is usually quite low. We've also found that temperatures in your crisper tend to be slightly warmer than the rest of your fridge. this means that while crispers and chillers may look similar, the latter will be much colder, so they're not interchangeable and you definitely shouldn't store meat in one, it just won't keep very well.

While other fridge compartments, such as butter and cheese keepers, are in part designed for odour control, vegetables don't absorb a lot of smells, and the ones that do go into the crisper are not usually that smelly, so odour separation isn't important in your crisper. Humidity control is though.

It's all about 'ethylene'

Fruits and vegetables release the natural ripening gas ethylene at different volumes and rates in their ripening stages, and they react differently to the gas as well – ripening slower or faster depending on the rate and volume of ethylene in the surrounds.

Cherries and blueberries don't release much ethylene and don't react much, whereas apples and pears release greater volumes at later stages of ripening. Lettuce is quite sensitive to ethylene, so you wouldn't want to store lettuce with pears and apples in the fridge. If you have well-ripened or spoiled fruit or vegetables, don't store them with the others - they can trigger rapid ripening or spoilage in other fruit and vegies.

That's why having two crispers in your fridge can be an advantage, as you can store certain fruits and vegetables separately. Some crispers also have humidity controls which claim to control the amount of moisture in the crisper.

We've put together the below table of the different behaviours and reactions of various common fruits and vegetables.

Ethylene sensitivity
Fruits and vegetables Ethylene produced Ethylene sensitivity
Apricot High High
Asparagus Very low Medium
Avocado High High
Blueberry Low Low
Broccoli Very low High
Cabbage Very low High
Capsicum Low Low
Carrot Very low Low
Cauliflower Very low High
Celery Very low Medium
Cherry Very low Low
Corn Very low Low
Cucumber Low High
Eggplant Low Low
Green beans Low Medium
Kale Very low Medium
Leeks Very low Medium
Lettuce (iceberg) Very low High
Nectarine High High
Peach High High
Pear High High
Peas Very low Medium
Plum Medium High
Spinach Very low High
Strawberry Low Low
Zucchini High High
Ideal humidity and temperature
Fruits and vegetables Ideal humidity Ideal temperature (°C)
Apricot Low 0
Asparagus High 2
Avocado Low 7
Blueberry High 0
Broccoli High 0
Cabbage High 0
Capsicum High 5
Carrot High 0
Cauliflower High 0
Celery High 0
Cherry High 0
Corn High 0
Cucumber High 10
Eggplant High 10
Green beans High 7
Kale High 0
Leeks High 0
Lettuce (iceberg) High 0
Nectarine Low 0
Peach Low 0
Pear Low -2–0
Peas High 0
Plum Low 0
Spinach High 0
Strawberry High 0
Zucchini High 5

Get more out of your crisper

As we've seen in the table above, different fruits and vegetables keep best at different humidity levels. Ultimately your crisper will be a compromise between the ideal temperature and humidity for the various different fruits and vegetables you keep in it, which is another benefit to having a dual crisper fridge – you can control the humidity of each crisper separately.

If you don't have humidity control, then it's usually good to make sure that vegetables which like humidity get a little extra help to stay humid, by putting them in a loose plastic bag. Similarly, a wet paper towel or sponge in the bottom of your crisper can help your humidity levels if your crisper is especially dry however this could encourage mould in a crisper that's very humid already.

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